Careers in Criminal Justice

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1 The StraighterLine Guide: Careers in Criminal Justice By Beth Dumbauld 2012 StraighterLine. All Rights Reserved.

2 Table of Contents Table of Contents Introduction: A Criminal Justice Degree Can Lead to a Life of Community Service Part One: Criminal Justice: Do You Have What it Takes? Part Two: How to Get Started in Criminal Justice: Tips Every Criminal Justice Student Should Know Part Three: Where Are the Jobs in Criminal Justice? What Do They Pay? About StraighterLine Notes Notes

3 Introduction: A Criminal Justice Degree Can Lead to a Life of Community Service You may think that all a criminal justice degree is good for is joining CSI, but you d be missing the whole story. Here are just a few of the careers that you can apprehend: Airport Security Officer Border Patrol Agent Campus Security Officer CIA Agent Corrections Officer Crime Analyst Crime Scene Investigator/Technician Criminal Investigator Criminal Profiler Criminologist DEA Agent FBI Agent Forensic Accountant Forensic Nurse Forensic Psychologist Fraud Investigator Gaming Surveillance Officer Homeland Security Officer Homicide Detective Hospital Security Officer Hospital Security Supervisor Information Security Officer Law Enforcement Officer Office Building Security Officer Office Building Security Supervisor Paralegal Parking Area Security Officer Parking Area Security Supervisor Parole Officer Police Officer Prison Guard Prison Warden Private Investigator Sporting Event Security Officer Sporting Event Security Supervisor Store/Shopping Center Security Officer SWAT team member White Collar Crime Investigator Criminal Justice Degrees Come in Many Forms Some colleges and universities have colleges of criminal justice. Others can include criminal justice in departments as diverse as law, public affairs, public policy, information technology (cybersecurity) or social science.you can get a certificate, an associate degree, a bachelor s or even a master s or doctorate. Whichever choice you make, there are required college courses you ll have to take. By taking your required courses at StraighterLine, you could save thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars on your criminal justice degree. Online Criminal Justice Degrees are More Respected than Ever Many people have gotten their criminal justice degrees at night, while working a full time job. Whether you re a police officer who wants to get off the streets and into a courtroom, or you re stuck in a dead-end job and want to retrain as a crime lab technician, online classes let you build towards your future while handling your present.these days, when top schools like Boston University, Penn State, Arizona State, Drexel and Loyola offer online justice degrees, it s fair to say that there s no stigma to an online criminal justice degree anymore. 3

4 Part 1: Criminal Justice: Do You Have What It Takes? Are you looking for a career in public service? If so, earning a degree in criminal justice can have you moving quickly into your field of choice. Whether you ultimately want to work in law enforcement or in the government, there are a variety of career entry points into the criminal justice sector. No matter if your educational destination is an associate, bachelor s, master s, or even a law degree, earning criminal justice credentials offers you an excellent career outlook and a variety of career options. What Do You Do with a Degree In Criminal Justice? Take a look around your community. Each day you probably interact or benefit from the actions of someone whose journey began by taking a course in criminal justice. Perhaps for you, it s a neighborhood police officer, a lawyer committed to your community, or someone who works tirelessly behind the scenes to keep your neighborhood safe. There s no doubt individuals working in the criminal justice field make a difference. If you are also looking to make a difference with your career choice, there are a variety of career pathways available in criminal justice. And each one of them has the potential to have a measurable impact on your life and the community at large. Here s a listing of popular careers in criminal justice: Police Officer, Detective FBI Agent Probation Officer Private Detective or Investigator There are also careers where it is helpful to have a background in criminal justice in addition to other advanced degrees or certifications.these may include: forensic psychologists, lawyers, judges, mediators, hearing officers, counselors, and tax collection agents. For the adult learner looking to go into a career in criminal justice, online colleges and universities can provide an excellent pathway towards earning your degree. And as you gain experience in your field, taking online classes can also help propel you towards earning additional educational requirements from your master s and beyond. If you are ready, you can take your first steps towards a degree in criminal justice today but how do know if career in criminal justice is right for you? 4

5 How Do You Know If a Criminal Justice Career Is Right for You? For many who enter the criminal justice field, there is a deep sense of commitment to the community around them. How do you know if you are called to public service? Depending on which area of criminal justice you are interested in, you will encounter a different set of educational requirements, skill sets, and job duties. Furthermore, as you look to advance in your career, you may find yourself seeking educational qualifications in addition to your work.the fact is: a career in criminal justice rewards both experience and education. Let s explore which qualities and job duties are associated with the most common careers in criminal justice.as we spotlight each category, you will be able to assess where your career goals and interests lie, and determine what level of education is required for the criminal justice roles that interest you most.as you do so, you will be able to evaluate if you have what it takes to earn a degree in criminal justice and gauge if you are prepared to take the next steps towards earning your college degree. 5

6 Spotlight: Police Officer or Detective Important Qualities Ability to multi-task Job tasks can vary from day to day. But multiple tasks and extensive paperwork must be completed on time. Communication skills Police and detectives must be able to speak with people when gathering facts about a crime and to then express details about a given incident in writing. Empathetic personality Police officers need to understand the perspectives of a wide variety of people in their jurisdiction and have a willingness to help the public. Good judgment Police and detectives must be able to determine the best way to solve a wide array of problems quickly. Leadership skills Police officers must be comfortable with being a highly visible member of their community, as the public looks to them for assistance in emergency situations. Perceptiveness Officers must be able to anticipate another person s reactions and understand why people act a certain way. Strength and stamina Officers and detectives must be in good physical shape both to pass required tests for entry into the field and to keep up with the daily rigors of the job. 1 Continues 6

7 Typical Duties Uniformed police officers typically do the following: Enforce laws Respond to calls for service Patrol assigned areas Conduct traffic stops and issue citations Arrest suspects Write detailed reports and fill out forms Prepare cases and testify in court 2 Detectives and criminal investigators typically do the following: Investigate crimes Collect evidence of crimes Conduct interviews with suspects and witnesses Observe the activities of suspects Arrest suspects Write detailed reports and fill out forms Prepare cases and testify in court 3 Education Required Police and detective applicants, at the bare minimum, must have a high school education or GED and be a graduate of their agency s training academy. More and more applicants for entry-level police jobs have taken some college classes, including those found at online colleges and universities. Detectives normally begin their careers as police officers before being promoted to detective and often need at least a bachelor s degree. 4 7

8 Spotlight: Federal Bureau of Investigation Important Qualities In addition to the qualities listed above for police officers, the FBI itself says agents need to posses the following qualities: Deep commitment to and understanding of U.S. Constitution Rigorous obedience to the U.S. Constitution is required of all employees of the FBI. Respectful FBI agents must respect the dignity of all they protect. Compassionate FBI agents must understand perspectives of a wide variety of people and have a willingness to help all they protect. Fairness FBI agents must apply the law fairly. Honorable FBI agents must be committed to personal integrity. Accountable An FBI agent accepts responsibility for actions and decisions. Leadership skills FBI agents need to be decisive in less than ideal environments, be able to manage a team and communicate critical information both on scene and during investigations. Plus, FBI agents on scene must also take charge and manage other agencies, including state and local law enforcement. 5 Typical Duties FBI special agents priorities include the following: Protect U.S. from terrorist attack Protect U.S. against foreign intelligence operations and espionage Protect U.S. against cyber attacks and high-technology crimes Protect civil rights Combat transnational and national criminal organizations and enterprises Combat major white-collar crime Combat significant violent crime Continues 8

9 Support federal, state, county, municipal, and international partners Upgrade technology to successfully perform the FBI s mission 6 Education Required All FBI agents must hold a 4-year degree from an accredited college or university.to be considered for a position, you also must be a U.S. citizen (or citizen of Northern Mariana Islands) and have a degree. All special agents also must qualify under one of the following five program specialties: accounting, computer science/information technology (IT), language, law, or diversified: Accounting: Certified as a CPA or have a 4-year degree in Accounting with 3 years of related work experience. Computer Science/IT: Computer Science or IT-related degree or a degree in Electrical Engineering, or Cisco Certification (with a BA or BS in another discipline). Language: BA or BS in any discipline and proficiency in a language that meets needs of the FBI. Law: JD degree from an accredited law school. Diversified: BA or BS in any discipline plus 3 years of full-time work experience or an advanced degree with 2 years of work experience. After a candidate qualifies through one of the five entry programs, the FBI makes hiring priorities based on critical skills needed at that point in time including: accounting, finance, computer science/it, foreign language skills, law, investigative experience, military experience, physical sciences and diversified experience. 7 You will not be eligible for a career in the FBI if any of the following apply in your situation: Conviction of a felony, past use of illegal drugs in violation of FBI Employment Drug Policy, default on a U.S. government student loan, failing a drug test, and (males only) not registering with Selective Service System. Also, the maximum age for consideration as a law officer in the Department of Justice, including the FBI, is 37 years 9

10 Important Qualities Spotlight: Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists Communication skills Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must be able to effectively interact and communicate with a wide range of people. Critical-thinking skills Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must be able to assess the needs of individual offenders before determining the best resources for helping them. Decision-making skills Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must consider the relative costs and benefits of potential actions and be able to choose appropriately. Emotional stability Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must cope with hostile or otherwise upsetting situations, as well as with other stresses on the job. Organizational skills Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must be able to manage multiple case files at one time. Writing skills Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists interpret training materials and write detailed reports on a regular basis. 8 Typical Duties Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists typically do the following: Evaluate offenders to determine the best course of treatment Provide offenders with resources to aid in rehabilitation Discuss treatment options with offenders Arrange treatment programs Supervise offenders and monitor their progress Conduct meetings with offenders as well as their family and friends Write reports on the progress of offenders 9 Continues 10

11 Education Required A probation officer or correctional treatment specialist generally requires a bachelor s degree in social work, criminal justice, psychology, or a related field. Some employers require a master's degree in a related field for candidates who do not have previous related work experience.most probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must complete a training program sponsored by their state government or the federal government,after which they may have to pass a certification test. In addition, they may be required to work as trainees or on a probationary period for up to 1 year before being offered a permanent position. A graduate degree, such as a master s degree in criminal justice, social work, or psychology, may be helpful or required for advancement. 10 Schools like University of Phoenix frequently offer a full range of Criminal Justice degrees, from associate to master s. 11

12 Important Qualities Spotlight: Private Detective or Investigator Communication skills Detectives and investigators must be able to listen carefully and ask appropriate questions when interviewing a person of interest. Honesty Detectives and investigators must tell the truth to gain the trust of their clients and people they interview, as well as to establish credibility in a court of law. Inquisitiveness Detectives and investigators must want to ask questions and to search for the truth. Problem-solving skills Detectives and investigators must be able to think on their feet and make quick decisions based on the information that they have at a given time. Resourcefulness Detectives and investigators must work persistently with whatever leads they have, no matter how limited, to determine the next step toward their goal.they sometimes need to figure out what a person of interest will do next. 11 Education Required Private detectives and investigators usually have some college education, either online or on-campus at a community college like Jefferson Community and Technical College or a university like American Intercontinental University. Some jobs may require an associate or bachelor s degree. Postsecondary courses in criminal justice and political science are helpful to aspiring private detectives and investigators. Although previous work experience is generally required, some people enter the occupation directly after graduating from college with an associate degree or bachelor s degree in criminal justice or police science. Corporate investigators need a bachelor s degree. Coursework in finance, accounting, and business is often preferred. Computer forensics investigators need a bachelor s degree in a related field, such as computer science or criminal justice.many schools,including online colleges and universities,offer certificate programs in computer forensics; some offer a bachelor s or a master s degree. Most states license private detectives and investigators. However, requirements vary by state. 12

13 Your Criminal Justice Checklist As you contemplate whether or not a career in criminal justice is right for you, run yourself through this quick checklist: Do you have good communications skills? Do you have good writing skills? Are you emotionally stable? Do you have good decision-making skills? Is your prior record squeaky clean? (In other words, no felonies?) Are you committed? Are you empathetic? Are you in good physical shape? Are you comfortable being in the public eye? Are you able to be flexible with your schedule? If you answer yes to most of these questions, there s a good chance that a career in criminal justice is an excellent fit and that you do indeed have what it takes make a difference in the criminal justice field. 13

14 Part 2: How to Get Started in Criminal Justice: Tips Every Criminal Justice Student Should Know A StraighterLine Conversation with Dr.Alexis J. Miller, Ph.D. in Criminal Justice Dr. Miller teaches criminal justice online and in the traditional classroom.when it comes to the education of students of criminal justice, she s been on the front line for years. We ve assembled a list of her recommendations to help you get started on your path towards successfully earning a degree in criminal justice. What Education Do You Need for a Career in Criminal Justice? A career in criminal justice rewards those students who receive a high level of education. It s a changing field - no longer blue collar. To become a detective or a chief of police, you will need a bachelor s degree. No matter your career entry point, you will need to understand statistics to control crime.to understand statistics, you will need to take a statistics course, whether online or on-campus. As you move along the criminal justice career path, you may even need to earn a master s degree to obtain the position you aspire to, particularly in leadership. Police Academy Training or an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice You should consider police academy training if you are looking to be a part of a smaller police force or work in a small town. However, most training academies at the state and city level (50+ employees) require 60 college credit hours of education for an individual even to be considered for a police officer position.what this means is that you ll be required to obtain college credit equivalent to an associate degree in order to just be able to apply for a job.an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice is often considered the minimum educational entry point for work in the criminal justice field, including those who are looking to become police officers. Furthermore, to carry a firearm as a police officer, you need to be at least 21. If you are a recent high school graduate, even if you wanted to, you cannot become a police officer until you hit that age. Be proactive; use those years after high school to get work experience and graduate from college. Getting a job will show future employers that you have the ability to show up on time each day and that you are reliable. Earning your college degree will give you the qualifications necessary to be considered for the criminal justice jobs you are interested in. 14

15 A Bachelor s Degree in Criminal Justice Dr. Miller recommends that a student of criminal justice aim high academically and perform even higher.a good GPA is good; a great GPA is even better. About 90% of students who graduate with a degree in criminal justice want to work in federal law enforcement. Expect most of your academic cohort across the nation to apply for the limited job openings that are available at the federal level.the competition is fierce.you won t even be considered for a job within the FBI without your bachelor s degree. Even in state police or big city departments (50+ employees), it s extremely competitive for open positions. Earning a bachelor s degree can give you an edge over those who only have an associate degree. Performing well in your classes and earning a high GPA can help you to stand out from the pack. Dr. Miller also offers up this insight: many police officers with an associate degree go back to earn their bachelor s degree.there is much perceived value and many benefits to having your bachelor s degree.there is a strong case for forging ahead once you start college and pursuing your Bachelor s in Criminal Justice from the get-go. Tips for Taking an Online Criminal Justice Class 1. Make a Daily Commitment: Designate a specific time each day for studying using your favorite calendar software. Mark it as an ongoing daily repeat. If the best time for you to study is in the morning, designate an hour for studying at the same time, every morning. If the best time for you to study is at night, choose a repeating time slot each night for your academic pursuits. Online, it doesn t matter when you study.the key is daily maintenance and consistency. Good study habits are important. Dr. Miller also advises every online student to treat your online class as a job. If you do so, you ll find completing your online class is not a big deal. If you don t, and save study time for whenever you have free time, you ll fall behind. 2.Writing Skills Are Essential: Assess your writing ability.not knowing how to write well while enrolled in an online program can be devastating.writing is the primary method of communication in an online class. If you need improvement, take a college prep writing class, like Developmental Writing, before enrolling in a for-credit class. 3.Statistics, Statistics, Statistics: Almost every criminal justice course will require that you understand statistics.taking a statistics course early in your college career is important,whether it s an online statistics class or one available on-campus. If you have a good understanding of statistics, you will be able to effectively work your way through academic studies while in college, and policy reports while on the job. 15

16 4. Slackers Take Note: You Are Not Anonymous while Taking an Online Class. Even though you are taking a class anywhere, anytime don t confuse an online course s flexibility as indication that you will be able to slide under the radar. In fact, an online education in many ways is more personalized than one in an on-campus classroom. If you underperform on assignments and don t contribute with real effort to online discussion boards, it will be noted and recorded.this is particularly important after you have transferred your college credits earned elsewhere and enrolled in an accredited online college or university like American Intercontinental University, Kaplan University or University of Phoenix. While online college course provider StraighterLine has one-on-one tutoring for each course it offers, it doesn t have required discussion boards.the attention is on the individual alone. On the other hand, once you transfer those credits to a college where you ultimately plan on graduating, you will most likely be required to take part in some sort of discussion board for the online classes you take. In an on-campus classroom setting, you might be able to get away with not participating, but you won t be able to hide from a lack of participation online. If quality participation is considered as part of your grade, don t be surprised if your grade suffers when your own (or lack of) comments are taken into account. Keep in mind, a professor can use online tools to track time spent on tests and time spent in the virtual classroom, as well as the duration and quality of the participation you have on a discussion board. Dr. Miller advises that the more a student interacts while taking an online class, the better grades they will get. On a related side note: If you plan on paying for college (beyond those courses you ve taken and transferred from low cost college course provider StraighterLine) through a Pell Grant, you are required to have good attendance for all your classes, including online courses. Professors are required to report your attendance records. 5. Read the Syllabus: You are solely responsible for the work you do or don t do when taking an online college course.when taking a criminal justice class online, you have added flexibility. But with that flexibility comes responsibility.take the time to read the syllabus. Know what the expectations are, when assignments are due, and ultimately, prepare yourself for what you will be tested and graded on. 6. Don t Mistake Feelings for Knowledge: In other words: write in the third person, not the first.writing about how you feel about a topic is not a substitute for critical reflection and doing the academic work. 16

17 7. Use Online Discussion Boards Wisely: I agree with what she said, or Uh-huh, aren t the kind of responses that a professor is looking for when a student is asked to respond in an online discussion board, if your online classes include discussion boards.the effort you put into your online criminal justice course will be reflected back in the form of your grade. 8. How to Best Interact with Your Professor Online: Once you have transferred your college credits earned through a self-directed online college course provider like StraighterLine and have enrolled in an accredited online college or university like Excelsior University, University of Phoenix or SUNY Empire State College, you will become part of a group working with a professor to cover advanced level course material.and, from time to time, you will need to communicate with that professor.whether you are taking an online or on-campus class in criminal justice, the same common sense communication techniques apply: If you ask your professor a question, give your professor the appropriate amount of time to respond. On campus, one post-it note on the door is sufficient. Online, if your professor hasn t responded to your question in a few hours, review your syllabus for the written policies about when to expect a response by a professor. If the required amount time has not passed, be patient, and wait for a response. Protocol generally determines that professors are required to respond to questions in 24 hours during the week, or possibly more over the weekend. Give your professors the courtesy of that time. Calling or texting the same question after ing it won t give you a quicker response it will only fill up their in-box, getting in the way of other students who need assistance as well. Tips for Getting Started with a Career in Criminal Justice 1. Know Yourself: The criminal justice field is not for the timid or reactionary. It s an intense career that requires a special kind of person. If you can t deal with the sight of blood, a job on the police force probably is not a good fit. If you get easily flustered or are quick to temper, you may also want to consider another field.after all, you will be dealing with people who might swear at you, insult you, and call you some pretty nasty names as a police officer you need to be able to maintain your self-control at all times, in all kinds of difficult circumstances. 2.If You Have a Felony,Forget About The Force: While it may be fascinating to better understand a system you ve been a part of,when it comes time to get a job,your prospects will be limited. Before you pour your tuition dollars and time into pursuing a criminal justice degree,you might want to look at alternatives. 3.Be Honest: You cannot lie your way out of past experimentation or mistakes.as you pursue a career in criminal justice,be upfront about your history.drug charges are a big issue.a single DUI offense or a one-time marijuana possession may have the potential to be overlooked at the local level,but will never be overlooked by the FBI.Be honest about your past personal history. 17

18 4. Statistics, Statistics, Statistics (Again!): Statistics aren t just for the classroom.they have important real world applications.when you re out in the field, you will be enforcing laws based upon policy taken from academic studies.as you move up the ladder into supervisory roles, you ll need to be able to record data, implement protocols based on statistics, and recommend good policy when it comes to public safety. Taking an online statistics class for college credit can be a helpful refresher for a working adult. And if you choose to go back to school to upgrade to a Bachelor s in Criminal Justice, you will be taking a statistics course and be expected to understand how to use it in practice. 5. If You Are an Adult Learner, Don t Wait to Earn Your Degree: Many careers in criminal justice come with an expiration date. For example, if you are interested in any type of criminal justice job with a federal law agency once you hit age 35 you will be out of luck.as an adult learner, frequently with a job, family and other responsibilities, the flexibility of online college courses makes getting your degree easier 6. Consider a Career in Corrections: Students of criminal justice often hope for a career in the federal government, such as the FBI.The truth is, these and other non-federal police jobs can be extremely difficult to obtain.while it s great to have goals, some other viable and well-paying career paths are often overlooked.a career in corrections provides just that a pathway to use your criminal justice degree and be well compensated in the process. Since there s a lot of career shuffling in corrections (including an admittedly high turnover rate), there is opportunity to move up the ladder quickly.you may even be eligible to become a warden in about 10 years, particularly if you have earned your Bachelor s in Criminal Justice. Given that wardens can make around $100k, there s a good financial incentive drive to earn your degree. Criminal Justice is a career that rewards educational achievement. It takes a special kind of person to become a police or parole officer or to work in corrections. Before you enter the field, take a good hard look at yourself and assess if your personality is a good match for the job. Committing to a career in criminal justice is far more than just taking a job it s taking on, and being absorbed by, a culture. If this culture appeals to you, aim high academically and you will find success. THUMB 1 ST FINGER 2 ND FINGER 3 RD FINGER 4 TH FINGER 18

19 Part 3: Where Criminal Justice Jobs Are and What They Pay If you re thinking of training for a career in a criminal justice field, you need to get a good picture of what your opportunities will be.which areas of the country will offer the most jobs opportunities for you? How much can you expect to earn? And will you have a secure job in the years ahead? Those are important questions to ask. Let s take a closer look. Which Areas of the Country Offer the Most Job Opportunities? If you train for a career in a criminal justice profession, will you need to leave the area where you live now and look for jobs in another part of the country? Are there more jobs in states with large populations like California, Florida, Illinois, and New York? Will you need to move to a city with a high crime rate, where jobs are more plentiful? The fact is, you can live just about anywhere and find a job as a criminal justice professional. If you move to a city like New York or Los Angeles, for example, you can apply for jobs in airport security, in prison supervision, or as private security guard. If you choose to move to a rural area, you will find job opportunities there too.you can apply to be a paralegal, a police officer, or a DEA agent. Opportunities exist everywhere for people who are trained to work in criminal justice. What Do Criminal Justice Jobs Pay? Here is some data on average salary ranges compiled by SuccessDegrees.com Alcohol,Tobacco and Firearms Bureau (ATF) agents: $33,000 - $42,000 Attorneys (criminal specialists): $50,000 - $165,000 Corrections Officers: $26,000 - $67,000 Court Bailiffs: $18,000 - $65,000 Court Clerks: $22,000 - $52,000 Crime Scene Investigators: $38,000 - $100,000+ Customs Agents: $38,000 - $49,000 Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Agents: $49,000 - $92,000 FBI Agents: $43,000 - $69,000, with increases after training Forensic Scientists: $32,000 - $80,000 19

20 Paralegals: $29,000 - $74,000 Police Officers: $31,000 - $83,000 Private Detectives: $25,000 - $74,000+ Private Security Guards: $17,000 - $41,000 (starting salary range) Probation Officers: $30,000 - $80,000 U.S. Marshals: $36,000 - $46,000 What Kind of Future Will I Have? Statistics from the Occupational Outlook Quarterly (a publication of the U.S. Department of Labor) predict solid growth for many criminal justice professions in the coming years. Here are some sample projections from the report Private Investigators and Private Detectives 21% projected job growth 34,700 individuals were employed in these professions in 2010 and 7,100 new jobs will be created by Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists 18% projected job growth 93,200 individuals were employed in these professions in 2010 and 17,100 new jobs will be created by Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers 18% projected job growth 1,090,600 individuals were employed in these professions in 2010 and 200,200 new jobs will be created by Police Officers and Detectives 7% projected job growth 794,300 individuals were employed in these professions in 2010 and 58,700 new jobs will be created by

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